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Government offers to sign NDMA deal

Pakistan has reportedly offered India to sign Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) agreement on the understanding already reached between the Commerce Ministers of the two countries, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

"We conveyed a message to Narendra Modi's government that Pakistan is ready on an immediate basis to sign the deal subject to New Delhi's acceptance of the already negotiated draft. If New Delhi wants to renegotiate the deal, it will take two and half years more," sources added.

Analysts, however, point out that the Modi government backed out of the deal finalised between the then Congress (I) government and the newly elected government of Nawaz Sharif; however when the time came to sign the deal Pakistan's establishment advised that it be delayed till after the Indian elections. It is unfortunate, analysts further maintain, that the Modi government is focused on the politics of confrontation with its nuclear neighbour rather than one of conflict resolution.

USAID, sources said, invested millions of dollars on trade liberalisation between the two nuclear rivals and one of its consultant's continuously monitored developments in the Commerce Ministry to apprise the financiers of latest development/thinking on the deal. The consultant is still in the Commerce Ministry but is now associated with another agency which offered to prepare Pakistan's Trade Policy 2015-18. The offer has reportedly been turned down.

According to sources, India maintains that its Afghanistan-destined trucks should be allowed to use Pakistan's land but this proposal has not been approved at any forum in Pakistan.

India further argues that Pakistan should give some unilateral concessions prior to accommodating the latter's demands especially with respect to removal of Non-Trade Barriers (NTBs), the sources continued. India has also demanded some measures for unrestricted clearance of Indian goods at Wagha border.

Pakistan, on the other hand, maintains that New Delhi is not fulfilling commitments made in the road map. Pakistan has also sought assurances on relaxation of visa conditions as a confidence-building measure. Pakistan's industry and agriculture sectors fear being hit badly if free trade with India is allowed given the extent of subsidies their Indian counterparts receive from their government.

To remove their concerns the Commerce Minister consulted India sensitive industries' stakeholders ie agriculture sector, automotive sector, pharmaceutical sector, synthetic fibre, and textile sector for consecutive two days but to no avail. Commerce Ministry maintains that if the local industry is protected through trade barriers then it would continue to operate at efficiency levels below that of their counterparts within the region and argues this is a flawed policy and will not be allowed as industry has to begin to stand on its feet.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015